On the road to #talkProspect!
Marion Scovell, Head of Prospect Legal, 14 October 2016
During Union Week all members of the legal team took to the road to:
- lead discussions on workers’ rights,
- spread the positive news from the Prospect At Work campaign, and
- promote the benefits of membership with our legal services
We met a fabulous bunch of Prospect reps, who are inspiring in their enthusiasm and commitment. It was also great to meet such a wide range of members, all keen to #talkProspect. A key message from members was that it is union organisation and strength that supports members at work.
See our story of the week as viewed through our twitter feed https://storify.com/ProspectLegal/union-week-2016
“Let’s Talk Prospect!”
Marion Scovell, Head of Prospect Legal, 30 September 2016
Prospect’s union week kicks off on Monday 3 October. There will be over 500 events taking place in Prospect branches throughout the country.
Union week seeks to increase Prospect’s profile, enable members to engage actively in the union, and to recruit new members. The week is a focus of activities to build Prospect and better support members.
Full time officers and our pension, health & safety, and learning specialists will all be on the road.
Members of the Legal team will be at a number of branches from Plymouth to Aberdeen to:
- provide information about the union’s legal services,
- deliver presentations on employment rights, and
- offer advice to members
During the week we have activities planned for:
- Devonport Dockyard, Plymouth
- Abbey Wood, Bristol
- Ministry of Justice, London
- Conference call for the home workers network
- MVV environment, Plymouth
- BT, Southampton
- Kew Gardens, London
- HSE, Bootle
- YPN event, Harwell Campus
- Historic England, Fort Cumberland
- Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen
- Chatham House, London
- Harwell Campus (with Pattinson & Brewer)
- Universities UK International, London
And the usual work continues as well, with two tribunal hearings during the week!
A new issue of Legal Eye is being sent out on Monday. And a new expanded version of the Prospect at Work campaign report ‘Working for You’ is available bit.ly/Working_For_You
There are lots of activities during the week, but remember Prospect is a union for life, not just for union week, if you would like the legal team to do an event for your branch in the future just let us know.
For more on Union Week see https://www.prospect.org.uk/be-involved/union-week-2016/index
Musing on May Day
Marion Scovell, Head of Prospect Legal, 2 May 2016
International Workers’ Day on 1 May is a day to celebrate the trade union movement and commit to the fight for improved rights.
This year, as usual, there were May Day rallies around the World with trade unionists coming together to join the call for freedom from oppression and better rights for all workers. I went along to the London May Day rally to hear the inspirational Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, address the rally from the top of a red double decker bus.
Frances O’Grady talked about the plight of workers and picked up on three very different groups of workers at the current forefront of action; the steel workers, junior doctors, and the workers at British Home Stores. It struck me what a diverse threesome this was, and it indicates how workers across all sectors are at risk of insecurity and unfairness ranging from enforced redundancies to imposed changes in contracts.
But Frances also had a very positive message - together we can fight back and make a difference. On the Trade Union Bill, she said the unions have defeated the Government not once, not twice, but three times. While the Bill is still an outrageous attack on unions, we have secured several victories. By growing the union movement we will be heard.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke of his commitment to workers’ rights. He said a Labour Government in 2020 would repeal the Lobbying Act[i], which has placed unnecessary restrictions and burdens on unions. Jeremy also said that the Labour Party would be shortly undertaking a review of trade union and employment law to ensure fairness and equality and to promote security through ending exploitative zero hours contracts.
Part of our Prospect at Work campaign is to look at positively shaping the future of employment rights. The commitment to a policy review from the Labour Party is a welcome development. In our recent survey of Prospect representatives we asked about priorities for the future of employment law. Along with scrapping the Trade Union Bill, our reps want to see greater protection against harassment at work, stronger rights for union recognition, and an end to employment tribunal fees. The initial findings from the survey will be released on 11 May and we will be doing more work around this, to inform current policy and to build information and case studies for campaigning and lobbying for better rights for workers.
We have seen a real onslaught on workers’ rights over the last five years, with it now being easier and cheaper to dismiss employees and less access to justice. This makes effective unions in the workplace ever more important.
As they say…. trade union commitment is for life, not just for May Day!
Lords push back on TU Bill
Marion Scovell, Head of Prospect Legal, 17 March 2016
It was great to see the House of Lords vote convincingly to defeat the Government over three aspects of the Trade Union Bill yesterday evening.
The Lords voted to:
- Allow an independent review of electronic balloting on industrial action,
- Limit the impact of the proposal to require members to opt in to the political fund, and
- Remove the powers to limit facility time in the public sector.
There was a significant majority on each of the three votes, with cross benchers and some conservative peers voting with the Labour Lords to defeat the Government.
The TUC’s touchstone blog reports the evening’s votes as a ‘triple whammy defeat for Government’
Frances O’Grady, said: “This is an important result for the 6 million trade union members across the UK. But it’s a bad day for the government. These defeats should be the nails in the coffin of the whole trade union bill.”
These votes are certainly welcome news and the Bill will be subject to further debate in the Lords in April. The Bill will then return to the Commons.
We have updated our briefing on the TU Bill
Employment rights survey
Rodney Wheeler, Senior Research Assistant, 11 March 2016
As part of the campaign we are running a survey of all our reps. The survey has two broad aims:
- Gathering information on the work of reps: as a union Prospect does all it can to make a real difference for its members in the workplace, which would be an impossible process if it was not for the hard work of our fantastic group of committed reps. However our understanding of the amount of interactions reps have with members, along with their scale and scope is quite limited. Through this survey we are looking to remedy this situation through asking a series of questions about your role as a rep.
- Understanding the impacts of changes to employment law: in recent years there have been a number of significant changes to employment law. We are keen to understand any specific impacts that these have had in your workplace. Moreover we are keen to find out what your see as the priorities for the future of employment law.
All of the responses to the survey will be treated with the strictest confidence, and whilst we do ask for your name/branch details these are purely to a) understand any area specific trends, and b) be able to follow up on any specific examples you choose to share with us.
What happens with the results?
We are looking to draw up a report on the findings of the survey to present at Prospect’s 2016 Conference. This will most likely consist of headline facts, key findings, graphs, charts and quotes (only once they have been approved for use). The report will also draw on other aspects of the campaign. Following on from conference the findings will be further analysed, and where possible used to help inform the decision making of the union.
What if I’m not a rep?
This survey is specifically targeted at reps so if you are a member we would ask that you do not fill it in. Later on in 2016 there will be an all members survey, which will give you a chance to give the union your views on a number of the topics covered in the Prospect at work survey.
How do I complete the survey?
To complete the survey simply click here, the survey can be completed on all desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones and should take around 15 minutes to complete. If you encounter any technical details please email me. Additionally please note that the survey will close at midnight on April 7th 2016.
The campaign gets going!
Marion Scovell, Head of Prospect Legal, 4 March 2016
I'm looking back at some of my personal highlights from February’s launch of ‘Prospect At Work’.
On the road
The legal team were on the road during February, meeting with 18 branches up and down the country to discuss employment rights, the Trade Union Bill, and our campaign. I was so impressed by the excellent work and commitment of our reps that I heard about at these meetings. See photos from these (and other) events on our Wrelfies page.
The TUC’s week of action, HeartUnions, involved a ‘Big Workplace Meeting’. Union branches, including many in Prospect, tuned in to a live broadcast with Frances O'Grady, joined by Eddie Izzard, to hear about the Bill. I was delighted to be asked to join Prospect members at Diamond Lightsource, who were hosting a 'Big' meeting for members on the Harwell campus. It was a strange experience to be a 'warm-up' act for the inspirational Frances O'Grady!
Our ‘unsung heroes’
It was great to see work by Prospect members being recognised in the TUC’s publicity for HeartUnions week.
Mary Sherwood, a Prospect member at the Met Office, was praised by Paul Nowak (TUC’s deputy General Secretary) as one of the unsung heroes of the trade union movement for her work on setting up a dementia carers’ network in her workplace.
Frances O’Grady cited the successful equal pay claim at IPO as an example of what it means to be in a union and why we need to defend them.
On 12 February the Government released its disappointing plans on gender pay gap reporting. Prospect rep and NEC member Ele Wade did a fantastic interview on radio 4 talking about the need for pay equality. Following this the phones were buzzing all day in Prospect’s communication department with journalists looking to interview our very own media star, Ms Wade.
The TU Bill
The month started and ended with events on the Trade Union Bill.
The campaign was launched at a packed Prospect meeting on the Trade Union Bill on 2 February. Despite the very real concerns about the Bill's fundamental attack on unions, the overall message from the meeting was that unions really can make a difference.
Evidence of the positive impact of lobbying became clear in the middle of the month, when a leaked letter from the Minister stated the Govt expected some defeats on the Bill in the Lords and proposed changes to the Bill.
At the end of the month I ran a training session by phone for reps to consider the detail of the Bill and its likely impact. We agreed that the Bill defies logic and has no evidence base.
The campaign continues…
Lots more activities are planned for the rest of the year. Check out the campaign pages and let me know if you would like help with events in your branches.
Progress of the Trade Union Bill
Sue Ferns, Deputy General Secretary, 8 February 2016
The Committee Stage of the Trade Union Bill in the House of Lords starts today (8 February), with a further day of debate on Wednesday this week and two more to follow later in the month.
This is a key stage in the Bill’s progress, since the Government does not have an inbuilt majority in the Lords and will be required to respond to a lengthy and probing series of amendments, some of which have Liberal Democrat, Crossbench and even Conservative support.
Debate this week is likely to focus around the case for and security of electronic balloting, the definition of ‘important’ public services to be covered by the additional 40% ballot threshold and whether this threshold should be lowered. Whilst Prospect has consistently sought the strongest possible mandate when taking industrial action, our view is that it is unnecessary and unfair to impose a dual threshold for some public service workers. It would better serve our economic interests to focus instead on the added value that unions bring through positive engagement.
The Lords will go on to debate other important amendments on facility time for union volunteers and the operation of check off arrangements, whereby union subscriptions are deducted from salary by mutual agreement of the member and their employer. As currently drafted, these provisions will also prohibit check off payment by other employers providing services supported by public funding, such as those operating in the nuclear decommissioning estate. Prospect is lobbying hard for this to be withdrawn.
The Government also faces difficult debates about the application of the Bill to the devolved nations, whose governments do not share Westminster’s ideology. Much attention will also be given to the proposed changes to the operation of trade union political funds, whether or not they are affiliated to the Labour Party. Interestingly, Lords of all Parties and none have expressed concerns about the democratic implications of denuding the resources of opposition parties.
So, it’s worth us all keeping a close eye on proceedings over the next few weeks and using any influence we can.
Why a campaign on employment rights? And why now?Marion Scovell, head of Prospect Legal, 1 February 2016
When I heard that our National Executive Committee had decided employment rights would be one of three key campaigning areas for 2016 I was rather surprised. The other two campaigns around Europe and Public Service seemed much more obvious. The immediate questions of why a 'campaign' and why now came to mind.
Employment and trade union law has been under attack over the last four years, with statutory protection being reduced and a significant attack on trade unions (see more on this on the main campaign page). Yet in this hostile political climate it's important to remember the positive role that unions have in protecting workplace rights, and this is the focus of the Prospect at Work campaign.
It is the union's core work to promote improvements to members' rights at work, through collective bargaining, supporting members with cases, and litigating on their behalf. We also work to influence Government policy through submissions and Parliamentary activity.
So, thinking more about the campaign the legal team proposed an increased focus on celebrating success and demonstrating just how effective unions can be - even in the face of the current concerted attack on workers rights.
We seek to defend our existing employment rights, but also look to build a case for improving the law, we need to shape our position for positive change. It's an important time to promote the real value of unions and the successes of our representatives which make a real difference to members at work.
A key element of the campaign will be highlighting the great work done to protect members. Employment rights are not just about the 'big' cases that end up at tribunal or court, but are about every time a Prospect rep helps a member assert their rights, wins a grievance, or simply answers a query about terms and conditions. Our new Workers' Rights Advocates series has started off with some interesting stories of how reps are daily resolving issues for members. We hope this series will inspire more members to become reps and highlight just how much unsung work goes on behind the scenes.
The legal officers are attending a number of branch meetings to talk about employment rights and the Prospect at Work campaign. My first two at the end of January were in Edinburgh, one as part of a training course for new reps and one was a presentation to our EDF branch conference. At both I was delighted with the positive reception from reps and the real enthusiasm to promote the campaign.
See the campaign activities page for more on how to spread the word and get involved.
So let's get behind the campaign, show the difference unions make, and demonstrate that we really are stronger together!